Radical plan to close Sheffield's biggest roundabout and build offices, flats and a hotel

Radical plans to close Sheffield’s biggest roundabout and build offices, flats and a hotel have sparked debate over road use, pollution and noise.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 3:04 pm

Sheffield City Council wants to turn Park Square into a ‘new commercial district’.

The Parkway would be diverted behind Sheffield station, where the tram tracks are now. And the tram would move to Pond Street before rejoining the network at Granville Square.

Park Square would then become ‘development land’.

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Park Square today, showing the road and tram routes. Pic Google.

The huge reshuffle is part of the authority’s £1.5bn plan to redevelop the Sheaf Valley and Midland Station.

A council report states: “The release of land at Park Square will allow for a new high-density gateway development at the foot of the Parkway.

“Centred around the potential for a new tram stop, this new destination will provide a mix of potential uses including hotel, conference facilities as well as urban living, office and leisure space.

“Park Square redevelopment will provide a key new commercial district and will improve links between Kelham, Castlegate and Midland Station.”

Midland Station from the air. Sheaf Street, foreground, would move to behind the station, where the tram tracks are now. Pic Google.

A report shows work on the inner relief road potentially starting in 2027 and changes to Park Square completed by 2037.

It adds: “The current highway layout is no longer fit for purpose and causes a variety of problems. Strategic and fundamental changes to the road network will reduce congestion, improve air quality and safety and provide capacity where and when it will be needed.

“Moving the tram to Pond Street opens up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a new Inner Relief Road route to the east of the station.

“It allows Midland Station to become a truly integrated part of the city. By removing the road barrier, and opening up new green space, it will be better and more safely connected with the bus station and the city core.

Park Square rearranged, with the Parkway heading off behind the station. The tram bridge at South Street, below Park Hill flats, would be redundant and is missing in this map.

“This is a complex and challenging proposition but is technically feasible and is a game-changing opportunity for a vastly more efficient Inner Relief Road and tram network and the transformation of this part of the city centre.”

The ‘Sheaf Valley Redevelopment Framework’ was launched last year to regenerate the area and make the most of HS2. It includes closing the dual carriageway outside the station, Sheaf Street, to traffic.

Sheffield’s business community welcomed plans to improve the exit from the station and remove a barrier to historic Victoria Quays – one of the city’s prettiest areas.

But there were concerns it would leave Park Hill ‘cut off’ from the city, do nothing to reduce pollution near the station and – by raising the dual carriageway up the hillside – create more noise.

Image of a pedestrianised Sheaf Street with an office block on Park Square in the distance.

Daniel Ladbury, director of estates and facilities at Sheffield Hallam University, which has huge redevelopment plans off nearby Howard Street, said he was concerned about plans for ‘office blocks’.

He added: “If that’s all it is then there’s plenty of space in the city for offices that could revitalise other areas…. we also need to look beyond the car and this plan just solves one problem whilst creating another. What’s the net zero carbon transport strategy for the city?”

David Bamford, strategic planner at Network Rail, said: “Whilst I really support improving Park and Sheaf squares, I don't think this should be at the cost of South Street Park and cutting Park Hill off from the city centre.

“It won't do anything to reduce the dangerous levels of pollution around the station as well and I would think raising the inner ring road means we will have more of a noise problem.

“The Grey to Green stuff has been brilliant for the city and, for myself, has led to me using my bike more and using the Castlegate, West Bar and Victoria Quays area more. We need to focus on trying to improve walking, cycling and public transport and reducing traffic and due to induced demand, this scheme is likely to increase traffic.”

Neil Armstrong, chief commercial officer at Sheffield software firm Tribepad, loved the idea for removing a barrier to Victoria Quays.

Image of tram on Pond Street.

He added: “It is a wonderful part of the city but really cut-off at the moment. The tram route seems much more user friendly too.”

And Daniel Bates, chief executive at Sheffield Theatres, added: “Seems an excellent idea and overdue.”

Laura IH Bennett, PhD researcher, said: “New tram route? Yes please! We've waited, what, 20 years for the trams just to get contactless payments. Supertram desperately needs some proper investment.

“I would love to see the political will to insist on some short-term disruption while new routes are laid, along all the arterial routes in and out of Sheff, plus a connection to the AMRC and Doncaster, for the huge long term benefits of having really well connected public transport.

“But yes, that aside, these proposals to relocate the ring road certainly get my vote.”

Alex Barlow, master brewer based on nearby Shoreham Street, said: “To be a forward-thinking global city which matches our ‘Outdoor City’ image and delivers on the green necessities we need plans like this.”

Patrick Coupar, masters student in urban and regional planning, welcomed the plans, but added: “Relocating the inner relief road next to Park Hill will do nothing to improve the appalling – and illegal - NO2 rates around the station. Taxi access to the station must be conditional on emission rates.”

David Kemp, senior associate urbanist at town planning firm Spawforths, said: “I am unsure about how the Park Hill flats and housing to the south of the city centre will be able to remain connected to the city they look over but overall I think we need to praise the ambition of the vision to tidy up this part of the city and reduce the dominance of the car.”

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.